Can a priori reconsideration improve on a priori theory? "Analytical" etc. schools


So something strange I've realized lately, in the humanities and social sciences it's fairly common to see labels such as "analytical", "analytic school" etc. which I read to suggest as if these schools are "improved versions" of those that they base on. Because they suggest that "hey those others were not analytical, but we are, so we're better, right?".

However, this might be suggestive and pretentious.

An example:

Analytical Marxism is an approach to Marxist theory that was prominent amongst English-speaking philosophers and social scientists during the 1980s. It was mainly associated with the September Group of academics, so called because of their biennial September meetings to discuss common interests. Self-described as "Non-Bullshit Marxism",[1] the group was characterized, in the words of David Miller, by "clear and rigorous thinking about questions that are usually blanketed by ideological fog."[2] The most prominent members of the group were G. A. Cohen, John Roemer, Jon Elster, Adam Przeworski, Erik Olin Wright, Hillel Steiner, and Philippe van Parijs.

It should not sound weird for someone educated in philosophy to see that "are usually blanketed by ideological fog" doesn't mean anything. Since it's impossible to display, what is blanketed by ideological fog and what's not. Everyone are prone to biases. So this statement could be suggestive and the theory a "wannabe better theory" with the investigators possibly enjoying or wanting to enjoy funding and societal praise as "being sharp".

What's the role of these kinds of schools of thought that in philosophy of science sense don't seem to elevate to anything more than "different semantics". Roughly I think that any science, to be better than mere a priori, has to develop to empiricism. Just changing the semantics is not enough, unless the field is entirely a priori (e.g. mathematics).


Posted 2018-05-08T10:47:39.923

Reputation: 2 666

Gordon Leff, Tyranny of Concepts, A Critique of Marxism, Univ. Alabama Press, 1969, p.16. ...Marx in turning away from his early notion of man divided from himself, as a species, to man divided into classes blurred the central dynamic between man as he is and man as he could be; he did so not only because he directed his attention almost wholly to economics and politics, but also because he never reconciled his own moral vision with his epistemology". – Gordon – 2018-05-08T13:02:00.197

Is this true or not true? T. Bottomore, M. Rubel (and Fromm) would probably say not true. Essentially Marx was the same Marx all the way through his working life, they would say. Millions of copies of this book were printed: There are newer and cheaper reprints.

– Gordon – 2018-05-08T13:14:09.510

The huge problem was that "Marxism" proceed right along but the actual written work of Marx went through quite an odyssey, ending up locked up in the USSR. This is a fascinating story in itself. See, M. Rubel, Rubel on Karl Marx Five Essays. – Gordon – 2018-05-08T13:18:30.530

Yes I am familiar with G.A. Cohen. I personally did not find his work to be fruitful. Nor, on a slightly different tact, but still hard-headed, did I find Althusser's work to hit the mark. I personally found the Bottomore-Rubel approach to be better. – Gordon – 2018-05-08T13:22:52.543

@Gordon Note though that your references also "elaborate" on, what I'm trying to criticize. That is, they are more theory about theory, which I would consider as useless armchair activity similar to "analyticity" without really offering anything new than YET MORE a priori, biased, personal speculation. Just because they call it marxism or whatever-critical-analytic doesn't meant that it is more. They could be playing with semantics, which is what this question is about. – mavavilj – 2018-05-08T13:29:39.497

You are absolutely correct. The capitalists have won because the Marxists have too many books! Too many to roads to travel down. I won't even mention the articles. It's difficult. Nevertheless Mavavilj, you may well prefer Althusser; or this analytic school. Fine. – Gordon – 2018-05-08T13:37:40.753

Marx and Engels' papers are now completely available online, at the International Institue of Social History, Nederlands: So for the young people today these works are more available, and of course for the scholars too. Again, I think people like Bottomore, Rubel, (and Fromm) were generally on the right track, but I'm sure others would disagree with me. We have to be completely frank that the Left has lacked unity, but I think at the very least Marx offers some good critical tools and methods.

– Gordon – 2018-05-08T18:38:14.020



A statement like "analytical" is just an indicator of a new approach.

The holders of such ideas are suggesting they have something better than before.
They do though have to prove it and probably you will discover it is just rebranding the product.

Why rebrand the old product if you have fundamentally changed it? Because you have not, you are just window dressing.

It is like saying to the faithful, we have the old faith still here, but in new clothes, so do not give up, press on.

So I would conclude a priori reconsideration cannot change a priori theory, because the theory is by definition priori else it is a new theory and is no longer the original.


Posted 2018-05-08T10:47:39.923

Reputation: 514

I hate when/if academics try to elevate their stuff by using fancy words that may be thought to be too complicated for "stupid laymen". Like analyticity. It implies as if "there's more throughout analyticity", but is it so and does it lead to truer theory? – mavavilj – 2018-05-08T14:59:20.833